Unraveling the Self

Judith - Duluth, Georgia
Entered on March 30, 2008

I have started no less than a dozen essays and can’t get through more than a hundred words before stopping. Aware that there are many beliefs I have held over my lifetime, what I keep coming back to is how differently my life has been since my youngest son’s suicide, nine years ago, at age twenty-three.

For five years after his death, I intensely probed my inner landscape. I read book after book on eastern, western, Celtic, native American, shamanic, and new age spirituality. I made thirty-day silent retreats (a practice from the Jesuit spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola), consulted spiritual guides, and practiced meditation and reflection. Daily I would sit in my rocker and through blurry eyes, gaze out the window at the trees and garden, until I sensed a loving energy inside of me, and the ache and hurt would momentarily cease.

The conviction that I failed as a mother that caused my son to want to die, contributed to my pain. A guilt-ridden, self-critical voice in my head, propelled me into a life review of my Catholic upbringing, a twenty-two-year-marriage-with-five-children, divorce and remarriage. The writing process had a healing affect and eventually led to my belief that the mystery of life can only be unraveled from within my Self. And that human life on this earth, is the unraveling process.

Gradually, I recognized my blind and deaf patches. Those patches were held in place by the threads of fidelity to the tenets of the religion I had grown up and been educated in. Conditioning had been sewn in place so effectively that I never questioned the seams, or the places that stitches crossed each other and kept the garment tightly closed. I developed moralistic, self-righteous ways of being me, to keep the stitching in tact.

Now the pain and inner anguish of my child’s death by his own hands didn’t fit within these seams. Stitch by stitch I cut through the thinking and practices I had been taught in order to be good and approved of by God, and others. The garment loosened and stretched beyond the seams. It didn’t look anything like the fabric that I had worn for almost six decades.

The new garment fit better, more flexible and easier to move in. There was a lightness that made it seem as if I had no clothing at all! The heavy, dark and penetrating grief in my belly slowly lessened. My shoulders and chest didn’t cave-in under the weight of my loss. The problems of the world were not deepening the furrows in my forehead. I stopped judging, looking for reasons or solutions to the trials and injustices of life. Oh, I still miss my son and have tearful moments, but I see the gift I have been given. I believe unraveling our Self can happen in as many different ways as their are human beings on this earth.

NPR’s This I Believe, is an example. Thank you!